With all the innovation being cranked out of Silicon Valley's top companies like Google and Facebook, employees and executives may be in dire need of a dose of zen. In response, a handful of forward-thinking tech brands are going beyond lunchtime yoga classes.
An 87-year-old Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, will spend a day next month at Google’s main campus in California, sharing his teachings on compassion as part of a current tour to meet with more than 20 CEOs of major US-based technology companies in Silicon Valley.
"Our society needs a collective awakening in order to save ourselves from the crisis we are in,” said Thay, as the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated spiritual guru is known by his hundreds of thousands of followers worldwide.
"We have to reverse this trend," he continued. "We have to go back to ourselves, to our beloved ones, to nature, because electronic devices help us to run away from ourselves. We lose ourselves in the internet, business, projects and we have no time to be with ourselves. We do not have the time to take care of our beloved ones and do not allow Mother Earth to heal us. We are running away from self, family and nature."
But Thay isn't making his rounds to bash technology. In fact, much of his purpose is to direct Google and other companies like it to be more mindful and purposeful, and to make better use of the devices and technology they create on behalf of their employees and customers. "I will tell them to use their intelligence and goodwill to help us create the kind of instruments to come back to ourselves, heal ourselves."
More than a thousand Googlers have been through "Search Inside Yourself" training, a special program that the company conducts, while another 400 or so on the waiting list take classes such as "Neural Self-Hacking" and "Managing Your Energy."
The platform was founded by Google employee Chade-Meng Tan, who joined Google in 2000 in mobile research. It took him several years before he was able to successfully introduce meditation to the tech environment, finding the proper balance between "contemplative practices," and "emotional intelligence," according to Wired.
"Everybody knows EI is good for their career," says Meng. "And every company knows that if their people have EI, they're gonna make a shitload of money."
But Google isn't the only company pushing mindfulness. Over 1,700 industry employees attended the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco last year, along with major executives including LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Arianna Huffington, Twitter cofounder Evan Williams and top executives from Cisco and Ford.
"There must be a spiritual dimension in your life and in your business, otherwise you cannot deal with the suffering caused by your work or your daily life," advises Thay. "If your business is causing environmental problems, then because you have practiced meditation you may have an idea of how to conduct your business in such a way that you will harm nature less…and if you have a collective wisdom, then naturally you will want to handle and conduct your business in such a way that will make the world suffer less."
In the same way that corporate responsibility and transparency have been incorporated into the bottom line, self-awareness is now becoming an integral part of doing good business.